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Tiny NYC beachfront burns in floodwaters

Associated Press Modified: October 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm •  Published: October 30, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — A tiny beachfront neighborhood told to evacuate before Sandy hit New York burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field.

By Tuesday morning, charred foundations of from 80 to 100 buildings were left in the sand at Breezy Point, a coastal community on Jamaica Bay known for its marshland and shorebirds.

Firefighters arrived at 11 p.m. Monday to find water chest-high in the streets, and used a boat to make rescues as orange flames engulfed home after home. The water and high winds whipping the coast from Sandy kept the blaze raging for several hours as firefighters hauled hoses while sloshing in ankle-high water.

"We watched the whole place go up in flames. It was hell night. It was the devil's night," said resident Thomas Reicherter.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital. Two civilians suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

Firefighters had to rescue several more, climbing onto an awning to take trapped people from an upstairs apartment with a roof that was catching fire from the house next door. A row of about 25 businesses, including a shoe repair store, burned with apartments above many of them.

More than 190 firefighters were sent to the blaze, still putting out some pockets more than nine hours after it erupted, training hoses on the inside of a medical center.

As daylight broke Tuesday, a stone statue that appeared to represent the Virgin Mary stood next to wooden slats and debris-caked mud, surrounded by no homes. Two logs not attached to anything crushed the top of a red Ford SUV. Residents walked aimlessly through water-filled streets with electrical wires dangling down in front of them.

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